As a lifelong fan of the science fiction genre (so much so that I made it my specialty in graduate school), I knew it would only be a matter of time before I watched this show. I was curious from the start to see what an adaptation of the 1973 Westworld film would look like and yet I hesitated a long time before finally starting the series. I think deep down I delayed because I was afraid I wouldn’t like the story, as it is very easy to do robot/A.I. run amuck badly. But it turns out I was worried over nothing: Westworld‘s first season is sheer brilliance.
In ten episodes, we are introduced to the unbelievably lavish park that is Westworld, a place where the obscenely wealthy can come live out whatever fantasy they desire, from the innocent pleasures of living on a homestead to more depraved activities up to and including murder and rape. The human guests can act as they please since the robotic ‘hosts’ are incapable of harming them. In such an environment, many guests let loose with repressed fantasies of murder and sexual freedom (the series comments several times that most guests come to either “shoot or f*ck” whatever they want) in a way that can be very disturbing to watch (this show does not hold back on showing blood).
The plot is divided between several arcs that follow different characters. The primary hosts we follow are Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), her programmed lover Teddy (James Marsden), Maeve, a saloon madam (Thandie Newton) and recurring visits from Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and his group of bandits. On the human side, in the park, we follow the mysterious Man in Black (Ed Harris) and a newcomer to the park named William (Jimmi Simpson), whose coming to the park with Logan (Ben Barnes), his future brother in law. Outside of the park, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is the director of the park and is assisted by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). The show clearly takes place sometime in the future as the technology is far beyond anything that currently exists, but it’s not known how far in the future we are, as so far as I know, no year is ever given.
It is clear from the first episode that there is something odd going on in the park, with the hosts in particular, but it takes almost the entire season before enough pieces come together to provide answers. That’s not a bad thing: half of the reason I love Westworld is because the fragmented plot arcs keep you guessing at the truth and eager to see the next piece of the puzzle (so to speak). And when the answers do begin to come, you start to question everything you’ve seen in the series. Not only that, there are some twists that lead you to wonder if anyone in this series is actually human. Like many films and tv series that explore the concept of A.I., the border between robots and humans becomes so thin that it is practically non-existent (unless one of the hosts has a glitch).
Anthony Hopkins turns in a magnificent performance, a particularly favorite moment coming at the end of episode 7 “Trompe L’Oeil.” In that episode, Hopkins switches from affable to pure menace so effortlessly that I was glued to the screen for the entirety of the scene. The episode also features one of my favorite plot twists in the season, simply because there’s almost no hint that it’s coming.
If you like robots and science fiction, then I think you will enjoy Westworld season one. The plot is very well crafted and as I said before will keep you guessing almost until the end. I’m looking forward to watching season two.
-I ended up feeling sorry for the Man in Black by the end of the season. Even though he was warned multiple times that what he was searching for wasn’t meant for him, he persists anyway and is eventually disappointed.
-Teddy (James Marsden) has so many death scenes it’s almost ridiculous. To be fair though, he pulls it off beautifully each time.
-I can’t stand Logan (Ben Barnes) and I feel like he deserves everything he gets.
What do you think of the first season of Westworld? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!
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